As I observed yesterday, a July 13 piece in the Washington Post "reported" that the Tea Party is a movement "held together by its exclusive focus on fiscal matters and its avoidance of divisive social issues..." (emphasis added).   The July 13 piece offered no contrary views or evidence regarding the Tea Party’s wholly fiscally-minded nature, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.  In other words, the Post allowed Tea Party activists to define themselves in their own terms, unchallenged, in a vacuum, without noting any opposing evidence.

The Post’s approach was completely different when it came to covering the NAACP, which passed a resolution denouncing racist elements within the Tea Party.  In a July 14 piece, the Post was not content to give the NAACP the floor–it gave lots of space to contrary views.  In fact, the Post article mentions Sarah Palin’s condemnation of the NAACP’s action before it even discusses what, exactly, the NAACP said.  The July 14 piece follows the standard establishment media format of unswerving "balance" i.e. we will report what both sides claim, giving each equal weight, implying that each view is of equal merit, despite actual evidence.

In this case, the Post’s formula produces an article saying, on the one hand, the NAACP claims the Tea Party has racist elements (a verifiable, and amply documented, fact), on the other hand, Sarah Palin objects to that claim, as does the St. Louis Tea party.  You, gentle readers, must sort out who’s right. 

That would be bad enough, as the charge of racist elements within the Tea Party is well-documented.  But, while the Post studiously adheres to the "balance" model when discussing the NAACP resolution, it gives the Tea Party an open mike to define itself in other stories, including the one I noted yesterday, as well as an Associated Press piece in the Post today that similarly describes the Tea Party as a libertarian movement doggedly focused on fiscal matters and liberty.

The Post isn’t doing journalism–instead, it’s allowing the Tea Party to paint itself in an unjustifiably pristine light.

Chris Edelson

Chris Edelson

Chris is a lawyer and professor at American University who writes frequently about current political and media issues. His writing has also been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metroland (Albany, NY), and at commondreams.org

3 Comments